ARLINGTON, Tex. — Keeping the Texas Rangers in competition in the American League West wasn't enough for Manager Bobby Valentine to keep his job.
The Rangers fired Valentine on Thursday after more than seven years on the job.
"Six-and-a-half games back and not playing very well in a season we thought we ought to be in contention. I think we were losing ground with the field," Ranger managing general partner George W. Bush said.
Bush said the move was made after a morning meeting with team President Tom Schieffer and General Manager Tom Grieve. Coach Toby Harrah was named interim manager.
"We felt that we had to make a change in order to try and win this year," Schieffer said. "We feel that we have not played to our potential."
Valentine, who appeared in good spirits at a news conference Thursday afternoon, said he was surprised by the firing.
"I'm not ready to move away from this team right now with my heart, my mind or my talent," Valentine said. "We might stay here and watch them win the World Series."
The Rangers (46-41) had lost two games in a row before beating Cleveland, 14-4, Thursday. They are in third place in the division, 5 1/2 behind first-place Minnesota.
Valentine was the third-longest tenured manager in the major leagues, behind Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers and Sparky Anderson of the Detroit Tigers.
He is the second manager fired this season. Montreal fired Tom Runnells on May 22 and replaced him with Felipe Alou.
Valentine, 41, was in his 25th baseball season--his eighth with the Rangers. Given the job May 16, 1985, Valentine became the youngest manager in the major leagues.
Although there had been speculation about Valentine's future, he signed a one-year extension last December that carried through the 1993 season.
Frustration has been building over the years. The Rangers and Seattle Mariners are the only American League teams never to win a division title. They came the closest under Valentine in 1986, when they finished second with an 87-75 record, two games behind the Angels.
Valentine, a former Dodger, has long been a favorite of Lasorda and once was thought to be his heir apparent as manager. There was speculation he would come to Los Angeles as a coach.
"He's a really good baseball man," Lasorda said. "He's great for a club in many ways. I love him like a son, but our staff is full right now."
Harrah has served on the Rangers' coaching staff since November of 1988.